The Commerce News
October 25, 2000
Truth Damages Political Process
The third presidential debate was not exactly high theater, nor
was it informative for anyone concerned about what the candidates
would do if elected.
A debate coach might rule otherwise, but I scored it a win for
George W. Bush, not on facts or issues, but on personality. He
has one, and Al Gore doesn't.
Otherwise, the debate was just an extension of the political
ads both candidates have run, which is to say the so-called facts
represent misstatements, exaggerations and omissions to the point
that no voter can really get a handle on the truth.
That is the status of political discourse in America, where politics
has degenerated to the level to which Bill Clinton dropped when
he stood by his "definition of sex" to cover his lie
about the liaison with Monica Lewinski. And while politicians
left and right belittled our fearless leader for that evasion,
virtually all of them use similar perversions of facts and figures
to try to get elected.
One need not listen to presidential candidates to see the unethical
manipulation of facts. It's right here in our local elections.
Both Scott Tolbert and Mike Beatty have taken grains of truth
and stretched and manipulated them to convey messages that border
on outright lies.
Tolbert, for example, calls the acquisition of land by the Jackson
County Water and Sewerage Authority "a shady land deal,"
saying that it was "swamp." There was nothing at all
shady about the deal, with which the authority remains delighted,
and Pat Bell had nothing to do with the purchase. The property
gives the authority room to expand its valuable waste treatment
plant and the wetlands portion provides a buffer against development.
Beatty's campaign against Sen. Eddie Madden has no local issue
base. He has selectively taken Madden's votes in years in the
Senate and tried to make them look like something they weren't.
In any other context, the kind of manipulation of truth used
by politicians would be damned, but it has become expected and
accepted in politics. It amazes me that we expect the men and
women who hold public office to be truthful when their campaigns
are based on contorting the truth. When Bill Clinton explained
that he did not consider an act of oral sex to be "sex,"
it was no more a deviation from reality than what candidates
for office turn out every day.
The manipulation of truth takes place in virtually every contested
political race at every level, not just by the candidates, but
by their supporters and by the voters to justify their choices.
The result is to give the public a distorted view of both the
candidates and the issues, of the problems and the potential
solutions. It causes cynicism about the entire process, about
politics and about government.
Apathy about government and elected officials shows up in the
low voter turnout in elections. We had a 28 percent turnout for
the General Primary. The last presidential election had a 49
percent voter turnout.
Look no further than the process for an explanation. When the
truth is so distorted, credibility is lost, and people who have
no faith in the candidates have no reason to vote.
The Jackson Herald
October 25, 2000
One of the most confusing items on a ballot are the amendment
and referendum questions voters are asked to decide.
We have studied the amendments and referendums that will be on
the Nov. 7 ballot and the following are our recommendations:
Amendment 1: To allow the removal from office of a public official
convicted of a felony.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. Public officials
convicted of an offense should not be allowed to hold onto their
Amendment 2: Homestead exemption tax relief.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. This amendment
safeguards legislation enacted in 1999 to give property tax relief
Amendment 3: Compensation for injured law enforcement and firefighter
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. These are both
dangerous public jobs and compensation should be allowed for
those injured in the line of duty. The General Assembly will
set the guidelines if adopted.
Amendment 4: Compensation for school personnel killed or disabled
in the line of duty.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. The benefits would
be funded from distinctive car license plates honoring Georgia
Amendment 5: Compensation for DOT workers killed or disabled
in the line of duty.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote.
Amendment 6: Special tax provisions for marine vessels.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. This measure would
defer taxes paid by boat dealers until such time as the boat
Amendment 7: Increasing time a person should be a lawyer before
serving as a state court judge.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. The measure would
increase from five to seven years a person must be a practicing
lawyer before he could be a state court judge.
Referendum A: Exemption of farm equipment from property taxes.
We believe this referendum deserves a NO vote. We're all for
tax relief, but it's unfair to single out just one group of businesses
for a special property tax exemption. Other family-owned business
have to pay taxes on their equipment, so why not exempt them
as well? While we have supported other agricultural tax breaks
for farmers, including the conservation use program, this referendum
goes far beyond that. We can't support such a narrow special
Referendum B: Tax exemption for tools of manual laborers.
We believe this referendum deserves a NO vote. This provision
is seldom enforced anyway.
Referendum C: Special homestead exemption for spouses of military
personnel killed in action.
We believe this referendum deserves a YES vote. It seems reasonable
to allow for this special homestead exemption for surviving spouses
of those KIA.
Referendum D: Special property tax break for Elks Lodge property.
We believe this referendum deserves a NO vote. There is no reason
to single out the Elks Lodge property for a special tax break
not offered to other worthwhile organizations.
The Jackson Herald
October 25, 2000
Smarmy party politics
out of control
I'm not too worried about Atlanta's bad air, but I am worried
about the political smog that is starting to cover our state
I've covered elections for 20 years and thought I'd seen just
about everything. But the putrid political discourse that has
typified this election season is a new low.
We all know why that's happening: The battle over redistricting
has brought both political parties into local races more than
ever before. In some instances, the state party is in total control
of local campaigns.
Both Republicans and Democrats are to blame. Neither party has
clean hands this election season. And I'm beginning to wonder
if either party stands for anything other than just winning elections
at any cost.
It's not just negative advertising that creates this. Frankly,
some negative ads are worthwhile if they are truthful, if they
are about important local issues and if they are limited to debate
between the candidates and not some outside issue.
But this year, the political discourse has gone far beyond just
negative campaigns. Both parties have poisoned the air by attempting
to polarize voters along racial, generational and economic lines.
And both parties have pandered to voters, tossing previously
held ideological positions out the window in favor of views that
resonate in the polls.
It's all about the polls. Positions are taken because of polling
data. The truth isn't important. Consistency isn't important.
The only thing that matters is the hot-button issue of the day.
What is especially appalling is the level of outright lying that
is taking place this election season. Both political parties
have adopted the old Nazi propaganda idea: Tell a lie big enough
and long enough and eventually the public will start believing
That's why this newspaper has been aggressive this year in pointing
out where candidates have strayed from the truth. A couple of
candidates have blasted us for that, but we'll keep on telling
the truth anyway. Unlike those candidates, we don't have a motive
to lie. We intend for our credibility to still be intact long
after candidate names have faded from memory.
But distasteful political dialogue has long-term consequences.
If you've ever wondered why the Palestinians and Israelis have
been fighting for 2,000 years, it's because their venomous political
discourse long ago became what our political discourse is becoming
today. When truth and reason vanish, the fragile social fabric
that binds our society together becomes frayed, ripped and eventually
It has to stop.
Voters are tired of positions and votes being taken out of context
and twisted by opponents into total lies.
Voters are tired of negative political phone calls that invade
our homes from people who don't say who they are.
Voters are tired of tasteless political ads that attempt to play
on the fears of our older citizens.
Voters are tired of silly faxes and emails from candidates that
are nothing more than inane propaganda.
Voters are tired of candidates pandering to any group by making
promises they know they can't keep.
It's time voters reject this polarized political dialogue created
by political party machines that have spun out of control. Instead,
we should focus on the merits or demerits of individual candidates
whatever their party label.
As someone told me this week, it doesn't matter what brand of
car you drive; what matters is that you get where you want to
Democrat or Republican, Chevrolet or Ford: They're all just a
What's really important is the reliability of the candidate who
drives the car, not the name of the vehicle itself.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
October 25, 2000
Eddie Madden Deserves
Re-Election To Senate
One of the important questions Jackson County voters will answer
Nov. 7 is who will represent them in the Georgia State Senate.
The race pits incumbent Eddie Madden of Elberton against Jefferson
resident Mike Beatty.
The News supports Madden for re-election for a number of reasons.
First, Madden has been productive. He has worked with officials
in Jackson County at every opportunity to solve local problems.
He was among the strong voices who helped defeat plans to build
a private landfill in Arcade. He helped get state officials involved
in providing grant and loan funds so Arcade residents could have
safe drinking water after their wells were contaminated. His
efforts have brought state funds in to help local governments
in many areas, including the renovation of the Commerce Civic
Center and funds to provide architectural services for the planning
of the Bill Anderson Center for Performing Arts.
Madden stepped in when local residents were afraid they would
have no input when the city decided to annex a large tract of
land and gave them their forum. Madden has performed similarly
for people and officials in the other counties in the district.
Whenever constituents have called on Madden for help, he has
tried to accommodate them.
When Mike Beatty served in the Georgia House of Representatives,
his constituents were not so fortunate. He demonstrated very
clearly on more than one occasion that he would go back on his
word. He promised to introduce legislation to let county residents
vote on the issue of a school merger, and two days later changed
his mind. He introduced legislation for Commerce to annex a large
tract of land, then killed the bill. Reminded of that in a political
debate this year, Beatty said he had not been given all the facts.
In reality, he did not have the fortitude to stand by his commitment.
Perhaps more importantly, Beatty seems to have no grasp of local
politics or issues. His campaign has consisted mostly of contorting
Madden's voting record through a constant stream of "news
releases" that are more fiction than fact. Beatty has no
other background of leadership or service and his primary qualification
appears to be an undying devotion to the Republican Party. Wherever
the GOP stands is where Mike Beatty stands.
For this county to have good representation in the Georgia Senate,
it needs a candidate capable of sizing up the issues on the basis
of how they affect his constituents, a candidate whose commitment
has value and someone whose loyalty is to the citizens, not the
Madden lacks Beatty's smooth campaign style, but what he has
is a record of service to his community and his constituents.
Eddie Madden deserves to be re-elected to represent the people
of the 47th State Senate District.
Jackson County Opinion Index